Monday, December 11, 2006

Are Managers Welcome to the Show?

Don't look now, but the Golf Industry Show is lurking around the corner. It'll be here before you can say Club Managers Association of America three times fast.

By the way, the CMAA joins the GIS party in February. So now it's the superintendents, owners and managers under one roof. Does this spell

Two years ago, when the National Golf Course Owners Association joined the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America to form the inaugural Golf Industry Show, we reported that Big Brother — the “all-powerful” and “forever-watching” character from George Orwell’s novel “1984” — had landed in the golf industry of all places. Twenty-one years later, golf course owners had assumed the role of Big Brother. The story went that some superintendents were wary of the NGCOA joining their annual conference and show because they wouldn’t be able to get away with doing some of the things they did at previous shows — like ditching a day’s worth of educational sessions to play 18 holes or party into the wee hours of the morning at their hotel bars — if their courses’ owners were around.

Now with the CMAA joining the show, Big Brother has reared his ugly head again. Word is some superintendents don’t want the managers attending the show — especially if the managers are the superintendents’ superiors — because they could cramp their lifestyles.

How do you feel about this? Is it a bunch of bologna? Or is it as true as a tender T-bone steak?

Blog here to share your thoughts.

— Larry Aylward

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Are Your Workers Safe?

What will kill you? That’s the focus of TIME magazine’s Dec. 4 cover story.

The author says that in a world where bird flu and mad cow disease dominate the headlines with scary hyperbole, it’s no wonder we’re not really fearful of the things that probably will kill us, like fast food, tobacco use and our daily commute.

That’s because our everyday risks are tolerated more due to repetition; repetition quells the fear. So it’s easy to take our safety for granted during everyday tasks.

Superintendents and their crews encounter a slew of everyday job hazards that appear less threatening with each recurrence, but they’re not. Ear protection and respirators are Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements for many tasks, but you probably don’t need to look very far around the property to see someone taking a shortcut.

When I did tree work, our safety gear was akin to combat: hardhat, leather gloves, long sleeves, eye protection, ear protection and chainsaw chaps (they make vests, too). We would smirk at them — especially the chaps — like we were less of men by wearing them.

But it didn’t seem so silly the day a pair of chaps saved my knee from a running chainsaw. It was an awkward cut on a branch that evidently supported a couple tons of felled timber. About midway into an angled cut, the tree rolled, the saw kicked, and I grazed my leg in an attempt to save my feet from certain crushing. The chaps’ fabric filled the saw and shut it down. I was left with damaged safety gear, but not even a nick on my knee.

Nothing is predictable when working outside. Then there is the human element. A higher percentage of accidents occur after lunch, according to OSHA. That’s precisely the time when we look to make out jobs just a little bit easier. Your workers aren’t trying to hurt themselves, but each shortcut increases myriad risks for injury.

How do you emphasize the importance of safety practices and protocols?

— David Frabotta, Senior Editor

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Burned Out or Moment of Clarity?

Few frustrations get the goat of superintendents more than fickle boards that tighten budgets without telling members to expect some changes.

You’re not alone. Many superintendents voice concerns about the pressures of meeting expectations with less money each year.

“It’s a love/hate thing. I love the job and love the property and all that, but to go through all the struggles again (with the board) and have them never really figure it out is like beating my head against the wall,” says Dan Williams, who resigned as superintendent of Riverview Country Club this month.

After 27 years, Williams says he’ll miss the profession, but he’s emotionally exhausted from trying to educate 27 different boards about what it takes to maintain a golf course. As negotiations begin this year, he’s bowing out.

“There are too many cuts, and I’m tired of taking the brunt of it,” he says, “And it’s never good enough. You strive to make it the best it can be, but I don’t think people understand that.”

Career changes require gumption, confidence, passion and drive. Once the thrill is gone, it’s difficult to be successful. I admire anyone with the self-awareness and courage to sail into uncharted territory to rediscover professional passion.

In Williams’ case, he’s sailing without a map. He doesn’t have a job lined up, and he’s not really sure what profession he wants to try next, although he says sales has piqued his interest.

But he does know one thing: “I’m looking forward to sleeping in on Saturdays.”

I’m sure Williams would appreciate any job leads you might have heard about in the industry. But please, wait until a decent hour to give him a ring.

How do you rekindle the passion for your work?

— David Frabotta, Senior Editor

Friday, November 03, 2006

Labor Crunch Could Get Tighter

If good help has been hard to find during the past few years, it doesn’t look like it will be any easier in 2007. The federal unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in October, its lowest level since May 2001.

Curiously, the five-year low coincides with the fewest jobs created in a month — October saw 92,000 new non-farm payroll employees — although more than 375,000 jobs were added in August and September combined, according to revised numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor. Service-providing industries propelled the growth, while employment declined in manufacturing and construction.

Employment for most major demographics showed little change, but jobless rates for adult women and Hispanics fell in October.

Wages appear to be edging higher than expected amid heightened competition for workers. The average hourly wage is $16.91, up 3.9 percent so far this year.

The low unemployment rate, creation of new jobs and salary hikes have many economists shrugging off fears of a recession as confident consumers near the holiday shopping season. Although national gross domestic product (value of goods and services) slowed to its lowest level in three years in the third quarter, many economists have attributed the trend to cooling housing markets.

With an economy expected by many to be firing on all cylinders by the end of the year and into 2007, labor will continue to be hard to come by.

So, what will you be doing differently this year to recruit/retain valuable employees?

— David Frabotta, Senior Editor

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What Kind of Manager Are You?

An NFL football coach was fired the other day. No surprise there.

It was revealed the fired coach was “too gruff” with the players. Also, no surprise there.

What is it about people who think they have to be as nasty as Godzilla to gain respect from the people they manage? When will they realize their management styles are as outdated as shag carpet?

I recently spent time with two golf industry veterans who manage with authority — but with respect. I watched Ray Davies, a certified superintendent who’s the director of golf course maintenance and construction for CourseCo in Petaluma, Calif., interact with the people he manages, including the several superintendents he oversees at CourseCo-operated golf courses. Davies showed them respect and vice versa. It was easy to tell they enjoyed working with each other. They had a team mentality.

I also spent time with Dave Catalano, the director of Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. I watched Catalano pay a wonderful compliment to the starter of Bethpage’s Black course. It made his day. I also watched many others smile widely and acknowledge Catalano as he walked by them. It told me a lot about the man.

What’s your management style? How do you command respect — for all the right reasons?

— Larry Aylward, Editor in Chief

Friday, October 13, 2006

Have YOU Thought About Public Office?

The mainstream media are all smiles over the salacious demise of former Rep. Mark Foley. Nothing sells papers like a scandal, and a possible gay sex scandal has news writers tripping over their double entendres faster than that guy on “Scrubs”.

Democrats, too, have been looking for a chip in Republicans' armor to help give them momentum to win back the Senate in November, and this one is just about as good as it gets, especially now that House Speaker Dennis Hastert in on the skewer for a possible cover-up.

Of course, no one is saying that Foley had sex with minor boys; he only had “inappropriate” digital communications. He says he was drunk while the communications took place, and he checked himself into rehab to get a handle on his behavior — which might have been going on for five years, according to reports speculating about the House Ethics Committee testimony of Foley’s former chief of staff Kirk Fordham.

His chemical scapegoat, like so many in the public eye, spoils his remorse, which so far has been voiced only by his attorney.
I’m insulted by the presumption that a quick spin at the Mayo Clinic absolves us, any of us, of all sins and transgressions. In early May, Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island nearly struck on-duty officers when he lost control of his vehicle at about 3 a.m. and struck a barricade. He told the officers he was late for a vote. They laughed, and then they drove him home without issuing a citation or sobriety test.

Sure, we have tragic flaws, but how much longer will we be lulled into submission by the lying, cheating and spin just long enough to support the lesser of two evils?

It’s time for a real people’s movement. Who better to run for office than agronomists? They are nurturing, for sure. They make a variety of decisions based on variable data. They are already in tune to the country’s shifting demographics, and most importantly: They’re trustworthy. Besides, the grassroots clich├ęs are endless. Maybe Ralph Nader, former Green Party candidate and noteworthy public crusader, could throw is weight behind it. But don’t expect a slew of media attention. The gotcha journalists of today care more about the “what” than the “why”.

Tell us your political war stories or ambitions for public office … Join the conversation.

— David Frabotta, Senior Editor

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Are We Still Learning?

Education is imperative in today’s world. There are still a few seasoned superintendents out there without four-year degrees, but it’s difficult to get your foot in the door without one these days.

Journalism is the same way. As a student, I once saw an old sage newspaperman (he doesn’t look so old to me anymore) say, “Journalism school is four years of bad habits that needed to be unlearned.” My advisor didn’t think that was too funny. But I did. I couldn’t wait to get out of school and get some practical experience.

About a decade has passed since then, and now I wonder what I’ve been missing while I’ve been busy on the job. Am I still learning?

I had the opportunity to see Bruce Williams, certified superintendent of the Los Angeles Country Club, speak last week at Project Green Start, a continuing education and networking event for assistant superintendents sponsored by Bayer and John Deere. You wouldn’t think a director of golf and grounds management for a prestigious club, who gives dozens of lectures each year, would still have a burning desire for learning, but he says he spends about six weeks a year in seminars.

If you’re like me, you’ve got some catching up to do to hit that mark. But it’s worth it. Those 50 assistant superintendents at the event returned to their home courses armed with new ideas, new contacts, new acquaintances and new ways to look at the same old problems. But more importantly, they went home reinvigorated with their profession and visibly proud about the personal and professional progress they were making.

As many golf courses decline into the off-season, perhaps it’s a good time to really examine continuing education opportunities — formal and informal — so spring can be met with the rejuvenation that the season deserves.

You might not have the twinkle in your eye like a 20-something all the time, but you might be surprised at how much continuing education can propel your job satisfaction, personal growth and overall happiness. And that is worth more than a line on a resume.

What seminars do you plan to attend this winter? Are you sending your staff to any events?

— David Frabotta, Senior Editor

Friday, September 15, 2006

Will You Need to Settle for Silver in Your Golden Years?

I call my retirement fund a 41k. 401k seems wildly optimistic, especially when my fund manager says: “It’s perfectly normal for your portfolio to show a negative gain at this stage in the game. You have plenty of time for it to rebound.”

To this I wonder how big of an oxymoron he really is. Rebound is a very unsettling word when used in context with my hard-earned retirement money. I’ve already conceded to driving used cars for the better portion of my life, and who could possibly get tired of chicken legs and rice for dinner?

We all make sacrifices so we can retire some day, but if your monthly statement looks like mine, then the jagged undulations that resemble the lifecycle of Enron’s stock price have you a little worried. Am I supposed to know what a Multicap Value Equity 2 Index is?

Worse yet, Americans don’t save money anymore. In fact, we spend about 100.5 percent of our income, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis. The savings rate officially hit zero in August 2005, making Americans the worst savers of any industrialized nation.

That dubious distinction means our retirement accounts will see even more stress in the near future to fill the void once met by old-fashioned rainy-day funds. Nothing like tugging at the threads of an already paper-thin security blanket.

How about your budget? Do you feel stretched between current family requirements and the hope that you might retire some day? Tell us about your balancing act.

— David Frabotta, Senior Editor

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Your Hometown Could Use Your Help

For the second time in three years, Cleveland was named the poorest big city in the country by the U.S. Census. About 32 percent of Cleveland residents live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census. Cleveland, by the way, is the home of Golfdom magazine.

When the news was reported, I felt a sick feeling in my stomach, much like I did two years ago when we learned our city's fate. Cleveland, like many Midwestern cities, has suffered economically because so many manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to cheaper labor overseas. What’s left is a lot of out-of-work people. And things just seem to get worse from there.

Of course, this problem has much to do about attitudes — poor people and rich people included. All of us, however, need to unite and attack poverty at its roots. It’s not about a quick fix.

That said, there are people in Cleveland and other cities — including your hometown — who need help now. They need food, clothing and shelter. Many of these people are children.

Two years ago, when Cleveland received the dubious honor of having the poorest population for the first time, I wrote a column in the Golfdom pages discussing how golf courses can help the poor. I’m not one for self promotion, but I’d like to share the column with you again. Please click here for “Some Ways We Can Help the Poor".

— Larry Aylward, Editor in Chief

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

That Roar You Hear Is a Dangerous Tiger

The headline in the paper the other day said, “Tiger Takes the Fifth.” It made me think of Retief Goosen.

But, first, about the meaning of the headline. It refers to how many times Tiger Woods has won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Five. Woods has also won four tournaments in a row, including the British Open and the PGA Championship, after failing to make the cut at Winged Foot for the U.S. Open. The guy is blowing away the competition.

Now, back to Goosen. I interviewed him in early July before Tiger went on his hot streak. Goosen said competition on the PGA Tour these days is tougher than ever. But it's great to see so many players have a chance to win, he added.

"It's a lot tougher to win out there than it was five years ago," Goosen said. "But then again, Tiger Woods was so on top of his game five years ago that it seemed like he was winning every week."

You remember the Tiger Woods of five years ago, don’t you? Well, looks like he’s back.

-- Larry Aylward, Editor in Chief

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Fall Classic?

You may have heard of Charlie Cook, the veteran Washington, D.C.-based political analyst. I had the pleasure of hearing Cook speak earlier this year at a Media Summit presented by BASF.

Cook monitors political candidates and their ratings like baseball nuts watch box scores and batting averages. He’s a fascinating person to hear speak.

But despite his knowledge, Cook admitted he doesn’t have a real good feel about this fall’s election. He can’t predict who will win control of the House and the Senate in the U.S. Congress.

Cook examined the election from two perspectives — the macro political approach and the micro political approach. When you look at it from the macro political approach — or from top to bottom — Cook said Republicans appear to be in eminent trouble.

But when one looks at the election from the micro political approach, or from the bottom to the top, it appears the Democrats will have a difficult time gaining control of the House and the Senate. Republicans will lose some House and Senate seats, but they’ll probably hold their majorities, he said.

As far as the presidential election in 2008, Cook said two early contenders are John McCain and Hilary Clinton. And, yes, Hilary has a chance.

— Larry Aylward, Editor in Chief

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

50 Dollars of Unleaded and a Conspiracy Theory

My day is off to a wonderful start. I filled up for $2.89 a gallon this morning. Boy, do I feel lucky.

Lucky because I beat the price increase that should hit the gas pumps today that will cause consumers — once again — to mutter expletives out loud and under their breath when they run up another 50 bucks in gas on their MasterCards. This is happening because BP announced yesterday it was shutting down an oilfield because it discovered "unexpectedly severe corrosion" in its pipelines in Alaska. The shutdown represents 8 percent of the nation's domestic oil production and could last for weeks to months, according to reports. Hence, gas prices will soar like Superman.

So, golf facilities will spend even more to fill up their fairway mowers and other gas-powered equipment to maintain their golf courses. And Joe Golfer, meanwhile, will be forced to use part of the money he normally spends on golf for the week at the local Speedway station.

No matter how you look at it, the latest news from the oil world is not good news for the golf industry. (Not to say that there’s ever any good news from the oil world.)

Now, I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but the oil companies are starting to make me wonder.

Your thoughts?

-- Larry Aylward, Editor in Chief

Friday, July 28, 2006

So They Loaded Up the Truck and Moved to Beverly

So I open up the paper today and see that Exxon Mobil posted a $10.4 billion profit for the second quarter. Profit! And that’s up 36 percent from last year.

Dumb me — I just sold my Exxon Mobil stock.

The other major oil companies made huge profits as well for the second quarter.

Oh, and by the way, gas prices here in northeast Ohio are pushing record highs. I’m sure prices are also soaring in your area.
I’m concerned of this, as are you. According to a recent survey we conducted, 43 percent of you said that you are worried that gas prices will hurt your golf course's operation in some way. Twenty-nine percent of you said you were worried, “but not too much.”

Twelve percent of you said “prices can rise to $4 for all I care.”

I betcha those 12 percent will care if that happens.

Congress has been urging the money-making oil companies to put more of their profits toward boosting the supply of energy of for consumers. Yes, that would be a good idea.

It’s also time that the leaders of these filthy rich companies take a look in the mirror and ask themselves if they’re making too much money at the expense of Joe Consumer.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

-- Larry Aylward, Editor in Chief

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ain't Brown Grand?

I just spent the day visiting several superintendents in the northern California area. Ray Davies, senior operations manager and director of golf course maintenance and construction for Tracy, Calif.-based CourseCo, gave me a tour of several of the company’s facilities. The day also happened to be the opening round of the British Open at Royal Liverpool and several of the CourseCo superintendents couldn’t help but comment on the course’s brown grass. Adam Schauer, superintendent of CourseCo’s Deep Cliff Golf Course in Cupertino, Calif., was raving about the dry turf. “That’s the way golf should be played,” he said.

How hot and dry has it been at Royal Liverpool recently? (Please, no-dog-chasing-fire-hydrants jokes here.) It has been so hot that British Open officials posted scoreboard notices warning of fire hazards at the course. They even told John Daly to watch where he tosses his cigarette butts.

Upon returning to my hotel from my tour with Davies, I received this e-mail from Jerry Coldiron, the certified superintendent at Boone County Golf in Florence, Ky. Wrote Coldiron:

“To all my golfing friends, I hope you get a chance to see some of the British Open this weekend and see how the game was meant to be played and a course maintained. I love the Open, and wish we could all maintain courses in a little more environmentally friendly, rough-and-tumble style. I have always worked to manage toward a compromise between Americanized courses and the more traditional British look and feel. ... In closing I hope you will join me in accepting, and not being so critical, of non-perfect golf course layouts and maintenance practices.”

It’s safe to say that superintendents like Schauer and Coldiron are hoping Joe Golfer watches this year’s British Open closely and comes away with the notion that brown ain’t so bad.

-- Larry Aylward, Editor and Chief

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Human Touch Rules

Have you heard the news about LESCO? The Cleveland-based provider of turf products is going back to its old way of doing business. It must -- to survive.

LESCO announced late last week that it expected a $4 million net loss for 2006. The company’s news caused its stock price (Nasdaq) to plunge 36 percent to a 52-week low.

Last year, former LESCO CEO Michael DiMino, who resigned last fall, dissolved its direct sales force and increased its mobile Stores On Wheels units to sell turf products to superintendents. The move backfired on the company. Superintendents and the company's other customers missed the face-to-face contact that LESCO's sales people provided.

The good news is that Jeffrey Rutherford, LESCO's president and chief executive officer, is reinstituting the company's direct sales force. Rutherford says he was against the decision to ditch it in the first place.

Hopefully, LESCO's business will rebound. It will take time, however.

I guess this ordeal articulates loudly of the importance of the human being in the sales process. Chalk one up for the human touch.

-- Larry Aylward, Editor in Chief

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Retief Tells It Like It Is

Remember the gripe fest the U.S. Open turned into two years ago at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club? Several golfers, including Tiger Woods, went off on the United States Golf Association and complained that the course played way too harshly on the last two days of the tournament. Their chief complaint was the greens were fast as Lightning McQueen. When the tournament ended, the course made more news for its stinginess than the U.S. Open's winner Retief Goosen did for his unruffledness Goosen conducted a putting exhibition on the final day at Shinnecock to win the tournament at four-under par.

Funny thing, nobody seemed to be complaining too much this year about the conditions at Winged Foot Golf Club, where Geoff Ogilvy won the event at five-over par. Goosen, meanwhile, failed to make the cut.

In a conversation with Golfdom recently, Goosen said Winged Foot’s greens were more challenging to play than Shinnecock’s.
“They were much more bumpier and not nearly rolling as true as they were at Shinnecock,” he said.

Make no mistake: Goosen said he’s not complaining about Winged Foot’s setup. “I like Winged Foot; I like all U.S. Open setups,” Goosen said.

Reflecting on his win at Shinnecock, Goosen said there shouldn’t have been such an uproar over the course’s setup.

“I don’t think they went over the top there,” he said.

Easy for him to say, you say? Well, Goosen has the right to say it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Enough Is Enough on Daly

Let me up, I've had enough. Please, no more articles about John Daly. I've had a daily dose of Daly for a few weeks now, and I can't stand anymore.

Ever since Daly's book, "My Life In And Out of the Rough," came out, we've been reading and hearing about Daly's exploits constantly — how much money he lost gambling, his drinking philosophy. Enough!

And then ESPN magazine comes along last week with a cover story on Daly. Inside, the magazine lists its "Gospel According to John." The article provides JD's views on drinking, working out (an oxymoron, indeed) and . . . gulp . . sex, among other topics. But Daly's take on sex did me in. In fact, the bit may have turned me off permanently.

Please, media, no more stuff on Daly. I don't want to know what he thinks about anything, be it the American League East or the "S" word.

Friday, June 09, 2006

When It Rains, It Pours at Muirfield

I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t something to the screwy, soggy legend that Muirfield Village Golf Club is cursed. Indeed, there is something weird and wet going on there.

The Dublin, Ohio-based course, site of Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament, has its own monsoon season — seemingly every year the tournament is held. Last week, it rained again and the tournament was delayed throughout the weekend. That makes rain in 21 of the 31 years the tournament has been held. As one sports writer covering the event put it, “Instead of a gray blazer, perhaps the champion of the Memorial Tournament should be awarded a rain suit and an umbrella.”

Legend has it that the reason it rains is because the course was built on sacred Indian burial ground. Hence, the deceased chief of those Indians cast a curse — as in cats and dogs — on the course during the tournament.

Think there’s anything to it?

— Larry Aylward, Editor in Chief

Monday, June 05, 2006

Getting Older a Few MPH Every Day

What better way to celebrate my friend's 39th birthday Sunday night than to head to the ballpark.

And what better way to fritter away what turned out to be a 14-2 Indians loss than to head to the speed-pitch machine that's just a soft-toss from our season tickets in Section 113 of Jacobs Field.

Once upon a time, the Juggs Gun was my ally. Blessed with a decent arm that earned me the childhood nickname "Rifle Fife" (after Barney Fife, God rest his silver bullet and soul), I'd regularly hit 69 mph. And once — at the "Taste of Cleveland" festival about eight years ago — I jacked it up to 75. (I was immediately accused of steroid use, although I tested postive only for pierogies.)

The idea to relive our youth — I'm 42 now — was my buddy's. And he hit a personal-best 69 mph a few times while hurling four rounds of three balls. Happy Birthday, Bobby Feller Jr.!

As for me, I lasted one round. My warmup toss registered 58. Entirely confident that I was loose as could be after that one lob — the first time I've touched a baseball or softball in about three years — I let 'er rip on my second throw. Sadly, the digital board registered a 66. My third and final throw wasn't even that good, and I left the park falling back on the fact that I hadn't blown up my rotator cuff.

I can run a marathon two weeks earlier. And lay 3,400 square feet of sod the previous Tuesday. But I apparently should hang up any aspirations of starring in the Disney sequel to "The Rookie."

Then again, C.C. Sabathia didn't fare much better Sunday night.

— Thomas Skernivitz, Managing Editor

'Honeymoon' Just Getting Started at Georgia Aquarium

Hopefully, you got to visit the new Georgia Aquarium during the Golf Industry Show's February stop in Atlanta. The world's biggest aquarium is quite the attraction.

If you did, you couldn't miss the two whale sharks — literally. Befitting of their home, they're the largest fish on Earth. And as of last weekend they're probably two of the happiest as well.

The aquarium just inherited two female whale sharks, Alice and Trixie, to hopefully mate with its two existing males, fellow "Honeymooners" Ralph and Norton. The sharks, which can grow up to 50 feet in length, are the only four of their kind on display outside of Asia.

The sharks' 6.2 million-gallon tank has room for two more of its kind. So as long as Ralph and Norton go "hamana-hamana-hamana-hamana"over Alice and Trixie, superintendents should find one big, happy family at the aquarium the next time the GIS comes to Atlanta.

— Thomas Skernivitz, Managing Editor

Friday, May 26, 2006

Praise the Lord ... and (By)pass the Ibuprofen?

The worst thing about running a marathon is the Day After … and then the next two days after that. So, the last thing I wanted to read 24 hours after finishing Sunday’s Cleveland Marathon was that my salvation – those one or two or six tablets of Advil – could kill me.

Alas, better runners have fared worse. Legend has it that the Greek soldier Pheidippides, the first guy to run what we now call a marathon, dropped dead immediately after the feat. I’m guessing NSAIDs weren’t around during his day, for better or for worse. Maybe he had to deal with a 30-mph-headwind as 1,700 of us did between miles 20 to 24 along Lake Erie. Trust me, that would do it.

Anyway, it’s Friday now, and I’m feeling much better going into the Memorial Day Weekend. There’s no running in store for the next four days, although the sod for my new lawn is finally being delivered on Tuesday. My quads and calves are ready for the 3,400-square-foot challenge. I’m just wondering how to break the bad news about Advil to my lower back.

Have a great long weekend everybody! And remember our soldiers, past and present.

— Thomas Skernivitz, Managing Editor

Monday, May 22, 2006

It's a Gas?

We don't talk much about sports anymore around here. The water-cooler chatter these days has to do with gas prices.
"Will prices reach $3 a gallon?"
"What will prices be next year at this time?"
"Are you still planning on purchasing that Toyota Prius?"
Last year Golfdom covered rising fuel costs extensively online and in the magazine. Back then superintendents and other industry people were making plans on how to deal with rising prices. Well, it's a year later folks, and we'd like to know how you're dealing with almost three bucks a gallon (in some regions of the country it's more).
Let us know by posting your blog here.
By the way, here's to using more PGR's to cut back on mowing. And here's to taking the bus.

-- Larry Aylward, editor in chief

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Let's Talk NBA Basketball

Here in Cleveland, where it's raining for what seems like the 17th day in a row, our LeBron-led Cavaliers have the Detroit Pistons sputtering like a '74 Ford Pinto. The Cavs topped the Pistons last night in D-town to take a three games to two series lead. The Cavs have won three straight after losing the first two games. It's back to Cleveland for game 6, where the Cavs can close out the Eastern Conference's best team.

Anybody out there think the Cavs have a chance?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

TOCA Conference

As some of you may know, there is an association dedicated to people who write about grass. The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) has been around since 1990 and is comprised of more than 200 editors, writers, publishers, photographers, public relations/advertising practitioners and other green industry leaders.
Probably the top perk about being a member of TOCA is the group's annual meeting and the opportunity to stray from the well-worn trade show path. Instead of landing in the same ol' ports — Orlando, New Orleans, Chicago, San Diego — the TOCA circuit the last three years has stopped in the likes of Charleston, S.C., Seattle and Memphis, Tenn. Next May we're headed to Savannah.
This month TOCA members trekked to Napa, Calif., for the chance to participate in educational sessions, rekindle relationships, and make no mistake about it, sample some of the best wine in the world.
The meeting couldn't have gone better, and executive director Den Gardner, administrative assistants Chris and LaVonne Moore and the group's board of directors deserve plenty of accolades.
On Golfdom's part, there was good reason to raise the glass in toast. The magazine was well represented at TOCA's awards ceremony, taking home several first-place honors:
  • Best page design (over two pages) — "OSHA is Watching You," Golfdom Art Director Carrie Parkhill;

Parkhill and Aylward each added a runner-up award to cap off a great first week of May. We're already looking forward to Savannah.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Dirt on Blogs

Irony leaches from my freshly tilled yard.

It’s not often that I get to play golf course superintendent, but that’s what I did over the weekend. Last Friday I finally turned over my dead lawn – six months after having doused it with Roundup.

On Saturday, with my wife and 10-week-old boy watching from the front porch, I spent several monotonous hours pushing around all the uneven soil with what the Home Depot guys told me was a “lute rake.” I endured while pretending to be Marshall Bossard and the boys, going back and forth, from my driveway to neighbor’s driveway, for what seemed like a country mile combined. The rake did the job, although I would have preferred an ATV, some chain-link fence and a few boulders.

To my glee, the smoothed yard looked so good on Sunday that my wife suggested keeping it dirt. I celebrated by jogging 20 miles — in preparation of the May 21 Cleveland Marathon and more importantly, to even out the soreness between my upper and lower bodies.

With the dawn of a new work week, I was back to my full-time gig as a journalist, which is where the irony comes into play. This is my first blog posting in over 20 years as a journalist. And in the process of writing this, I find myself again going back and forth in a cloud of dust.

Blogs aren’t necessarily bad; I read them occasionally, especially if they’re specific to a particular interest of mine (Cleveland Indians, publishing, running, wine, etc.). Unfortunately, I have a hard time getting past the fact that bloggers are too often considered journalists, and anyone with a computer can blog these days. I’m guessing you’d feel the same way if you saw me walking toward one of your greens with a lute rake.

Of course, the staff of Golfdom promises only the best. The best of exactly what, then again, is anyone’s idea. As editor in chief Larry Aylward mentions below in the blog-christening item, some posts might enlighten, some might entertain, some might rant, and some might just shoot the breeze. If you’d like to reciprocate, more power to you. That’s the primary intent. And right about now, I could use some good advice on how to turn my beautiful plot of dirt into an even more picturesque lawn.

--Thomas Skernivitz, Managing Editor

Cast Your Vote

Get out and vote! If I had the gumption to not only order an absentee ballot — I'm leaving for San Francisco any minute — but drop it back in the mail before last night's deadline, you've got no reason to stop by the nearest poll. (Of course, I may miss my plane if I'm not outta here in a minute.) Good luck!
— Tom Skernivitz, Managing Editor

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Day Without Immigrants

Today, immigrants from across the country are boycotting work, school and shopping to show how much they matter to their cities and communities. Rallies and marches are also part of a "Day Without Immigrants." A few hours ago, I glanced out my office window to see a long line of people parading on a downtown Cleveland street to bring attention to immigrants and their plight.

What are your views on the immigration issue? Did any of your golf course employees not show up for work today to support the immigrants' cause?

--Larry Aylward, Editor in Chief

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Here We Go Folks!

The Golfdom Blog is finally here. And welcome to it!
A few things:
1. We will use this Blog to spout about our concerns and opinions. However, we don't want this to be just about what we think. We want it to be about you, too. That said, we want you to spout about your concerns and opinions as well.
2. We will use this Blog to focus on serious stuff, like immigration issues and gas prices. We want to know what you think about what's going on in the world and how what's going on is impacting your business. In this regard, we want the Blog to be useful.
3. We will also use this Blog to focus on fun stuff, like talking sports and entertainment. Maybe we'll ask you to list your five favorite rock 'n' roll albums of all time.
4. We want this Blog to be useful. We want it to garner information so we can all learn some things.
Happy Blogging!
-- Larry Aylward, Editor in Chief